It took a long tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles, but the Michigan men’s tennis team captured the doubles point before cruising to a 6-1 victory over Michigan State in East Lansing on Sunday.
Heading into the first Big Ten battle of the season for either team, the Spartans boasted a 13-1 record and Michigan at 7-5 record, but that didn’t dictate the play of either team.
Michigan seized the momentum early as the No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Evan King and freshman Alex Buzzi defeated the Michigan State pair of Austin Brooks and Aaron Pfister, 8-6. The victory was the first for the duo, who hadn’t played together all season.
“Alex Buzzi stepped in pretty nicely and played well to win their match with Evan King at No. 2,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “The courts were fast, and the crowd was loud, but I think our composure was good and our execution was more consistent.”
The No. 1 doubles team of senior Jason Jung and freshman Shaun Bernstein was the second pair off the court, but they fell in a tight matchup to Jason Norville and John Stratton, 8-6.
After the loss, Michigan’s No. 3 doubles was left with a chance to secure the doubles point. And after a hard-fought eight-game pro-set ending in a tiebreaker, freshman Barrett Franks and senior Chris Madden secured the victory over Clark Richardson and Mat Nelson, 9-8 (4). The victory propelled the Wolverines to their fourth doubles point all season.
“I think Michigan State was ready to give us their best match, and I think they felt that they had a good chance to win the doubles,” Berque said. “Once we got it, I think it kind of slowed them down a little bit. That was a big turning point in the match, and it kind of took the crowd out of it.”
As singles play started, the Wolverines had an unfamiliar 1-0 lead.
But the lead wouldn’t last long. Madden was quickly off the court against Pfister, but not in the way he wanted. Pfister defeated Madden at No. 5 singles 6-2, 6-4, and knotted the match at one.
The tie was the closest the Spartans would get all day, as Michigan turned on the heat. At No. 1 singles King made quick work of Bogatov 6-1, 6-2. The 20th-ranked King secured yet another victory, improving his record to 12-1 on the season in singles and stretching his win streak to eleven.
“I think he has been more consistent in his level of play,” Berque said. “The biggest thing is his practicing over the last few months — there has been a big correlation with his ability to keep focus in matches and in practice.”
Michigan freshman Justin Rossi extended the lead to 3-1 and beat Drew Lied 6-3, 6-4 at No. 6, in what was another quick match. With three singles remaining, the Wolverines needed just one win to clinch the victory.
At No. 3 singles, Bernstein secured a two-set victory over Brooks 6-3, 6-2 and clinched the match for Michigan. Even though Bernstein’s win clinched the match for the Wolverines, the last two matches were played out anyways. Jung and Franks both notched wins for Michigan at No. 2 and No. 4 singles.
For the Wolverines, the victory was a solid way to enter conference play. Not only did they clinch the doubles point – something that has escaped them in 9-of-13 matches this season – but they also start the Big Ten season with a 1-0 record in conference play.
Michigan will play a pair of matches next week on the road against Purdue and Indiana and will look to improve its conference record even further.
“That’s a good lift heading into the next away trip,” Berque said. “Hopefully this gets us the confidence to get back on track after our last two-match losing streak.”